News & Events

November 2020

Are pedestrianised areas the future of mobility?

Are pedestrianised areas the future of mobility?

Covid-19 has altered the way we travel, perhaps forever. According to the IEA’s Global Energy Review 2020, by the end of March this year global transport activity was almost 50% below the 2019 average as a result of lockdown restrictions.

Despite road use returning to almost normal levels, we are now looking at more socially distanced measures of travel, such as cycling and walking, with local authorities actively exploring new ways to facilitate this on a temporary or permanent basis.

Vectos Microsim has been working alongside Warwickshire County Council to assess the potential implications of facilitating social distancing proposals through the reconfiguration of existing road space, which will allow safe social distancing to be achieved in a number of areas as well as generally improving the environment for both pedestrians and cyclists.

Using a range of S-Paramics and Paramics Discovery models, we were able to test, modify and enhance proposed schemes as well as understand the full implication of imposing these new measures on traffic conditions.  As a result, we established a suitable Transport Strategy for Warwick and Leamington Spa and the solutions are now being used to support a submission to the DfT to make some of the changes permanent. Among the interventions are more pedestrianised areas, including the High Street, making it easier for people to incorporate walking into their commute as well as supporting local businesses by enabling them to provide outside seating areas.

These initiatives will give businesses the opportunity to reopen, while still adhering to government guidelines, and could be considered necessary in order to facilitate the economic recovery. Public trust is also likely to be improved. By offering a safer way to travel that still ensures social distancing, people will feel more comfortable commuting to work and more inclined to start resuming their day-to-day activities.

The Government’s £2 billion ‘active travel’ fund is only likely to increase the number of plans like those of Warwickshire County Council’s, as local authorities implement similar measures. Wider pavements, safer junctions and cycle and bus-only corridors are only some of the initiatives that the fund will help to create. The fast-tracked statutory guidance for the reallocation of road space will accommodate increased numbers of cyclists and pedestrians and relieve the pressure on our public transport system. It will also help accelerate the shift towards the “15 minute town”; where neighbourhoods are equipped with more amenities, workplaces, recreational spaces and housing all within walking distance. This reduces the need to travel for many trip purposes which will contribute to decarbonisation objectives, whilst creating thriving and resilience local communities and businesses.

The response to COVID-19 has demonstrated how quickly we can implement alternatives to our previous main methods of transport, and how fast attitudes can change. Looking to the future of mobility, the industry is likely to create more socially distanced modes of travel to allow us to get back to some semblance of normal and, crucially, allow our economy to get back on its feet and stay there.